16 July – River Itchen

I remembered to take a waterproof jacket. I also took a three course lunch and plenty to drink. No beer. The journey west was a nightmare of dense traffic and endless average speed cameras. My mind was cluttered with non-fishing things but all thoughts disappeared when I drove over the bridge and saw the green fronds waving in the crystal clear water.

The early morning overcast had burnt off and the sunlight was intense. I had good access to both sides of the Beat and could easily avoid casting shadows everywhere. I peeped around the corner of a bush to scan the depths of the hatch pool and saw two huge dark shadows gliding around in the ribbons of the main current. I must have been seen as they melted into the depths of the pool never to reappear. I consoled myself with the thought that they were probably Chub.


My last visit was a bit of a mare. Everything went wrong and the day was only rescued by a late Grayling and the gorgeous scenery. I had worked too hard and messed things up. Today would be different, calmer, no pressure.

I sat behind the fringe of cover and watched a couple of Trout. A fish of about 2lbs and a smaller one were visiting the surface occasionally and sipping down invisible insects. They were feeding confidently and hadn’t seen me. I thought “try the big fish” but that would have lined it’s companion and good sense prevailed. I estimated the distance to the nearest fish at two rod lengths, twenty feet. I flicked ten feet of fly line and the same length of leader along the grass and added a yard for drift. I held the parachute Pheasant Tail between finger and thumb and rolled the line out. The fly landed well upstream of the Trout, there was no drag and the fish lifted slowly to gulp the fly down.

I fully expected the fish to shake the hook but after a long battle, well downstream, the net engulfed a beautiful brownie. I released it into the streamer weed and made plans to move down the Beat. The fly was trashed and by the time I’d replaced it the bigger Trout had resumed it’s station and was feeding again.


I watched the bigger, dark coloured Trout for a while and studied it’s routine. It was slightly head-down and quite deep but every few minutes it would rise to the surface and inspect the debris, looking for food. The cast was about three rod lengths. Once again the roll-from-the-hand positioned the fly about a yard upstream, the fish rose in slow motion and took the fly. When hooked it shot downstream and tried to bury itself in a weedbed but I bent the rod and held tight knowing that I had already avoided a blank day.

In an hour I’d had two takes and landed two nice fish. None escaped and I hadn’t scared any Trout. That was well above my average. It was time for lunch.


After lunch and a long chat with the Keeper, I walked down the shady side of the Beat looking for fish in the pockets of clear gravel. I found a fish but although I was peering through a gap between the rushes and an overhanging Willow, not skylined or in sunlight, it slowly drifted sideways under a weedbed. I noted the patch of gravel for later.

I walked the rest of the Beat and found two huge fish in a big pool. They looked about 10lbs and were either Barbel or Salmon, it was difficult to tell in the deep fast moving water. I wandered back upstream and found the patch of gravel. Two fish were in residence. I prepared the line and raised the rod to start the cast, both fish immediately bolted. It was probably sunlight flashing on the glossy varnish.


In the top pool another Trout was feeding. I presented a parachute Pheasant Tail which was closely inspected. I tried a smaller size, that was also rejected although the fish seemed more convinced. I swapped to a size 14 parachute Iron Blue and that was taken as the fish turned around to follow it downstream. The fish was the biggest of the day and put up a good fight.


At the lower end of the Beat, in a narrow stretch, I found a nice fish between tall beds of sedge. The cast was tricky and the fish was deep. I induced a take but although the fish came to the surface it shied away at the last moment.

Back at the top of the Beat I found two Trout, an Eel and several Grayling on a shallow gravel bed. They were occasionally visited by a pair of nice Chub. It was like an aquarium. I had the luxury of presenting a series of flies to various fish, all of which ignored my best attempts.

The day had been a complete success. A welcome change, even the drive home was bearable. It’s all in the mind, relax and enjoy.


13 July – River Tavy

The conditions were perfect, recent rain, overcast and not too windy. I decided to fish a Beat that I had walked in March but not yet fished. I arrived late in the afternoon and walked down into the valley in light rain. There were footprints and a few wheel tracks but the bankside vegetation hadn’t been trodden down.

The first pool I saw was a long curving run beside a rockface with a riffle at the top. As I watched the water a good fish rose for a sedge so I sheltered under a tree and setup the rod.


The rain got heavier but I hunkered down on the stony beach and worked the pool with a nymph. A good fish flashed gold in the amber coloured water. The Trout turned and flashed repeatedly,  just like a hooked fish. It was over a patch of coarse sand just on the edge of deep water.  Occasionally it took a sedge in an aggressive rise. I tried various nymphs and a Walker’s Sedge but there was no response.


I was crouched among the granite stones, well camouflaged and with a low profile. A very large Herring Gull flew towards me low over the tree line on my left. As I turned to watch, my movement alarmed the giant bird and it veered away. Seconds later there was a thump on the ground, it had dropped something. It was the remains of a Sea Trout, ‘A Sign From Isaac‘. I didn’t know whether to laugh at the irony or be annoyed about the predation of a valuable fish. It was the most bizarre thing to have happened to me while fishing. Ever.


Distracted and bewildered, I changed the fly to a black and silver spider and fished it hard against the rockface in the main current. As the fly swung under the overhanging branches the line became heavy and a fish was on. Only for a few seconds. It was a small Sea Trout.

Although I concentrated and fished a couple of other runs there were no more takes. I was soaked to the skin and the long walk out of the valley was exhausting. I felt that I was getting closer to landing a good Trout from one of the Dartmoor rivers.


9 July – River Cad

For once it didn’t rain and the drive westwards was quite enjoyable.  The river at the bottom of the garden was honey coloured in the evening but had cleared overnight and the fat little Trout were rising for midges. Until they saw me, then they melted away, they disappeared in six inches of crystal clear water. Amazing.


The humidity and uniform grey overcast were tiresome but perfect for fishing. Not on the moor, the weather would be nasty up there. A lush green river valley devoid of people and spaniels would be ideal.


I started with a black spider and although I experimented with other patterns,  I kept returning to that fly, I had confidence in the colour, weight and size. The scenery was spectacular. The gnarled old Oaks covered in bright green lichen and the granite boulders combined to create a primordial landscape. The cold, clear water smashed it’s way through crevices and poured over bed rock forming long, fast riffles. Water that looked shallow threatened the top of my wellies, some of the pools were over four feet deep.


While leaning against a tree I noticed a Golden Ringed dragon fly, the UK’s biggest, emerging from the larval shuck. It dried it’s wings, growled at me and thankfully zoomed off to kill something else.


I dropped a fly over a boulder the size of a mini and a double-tap signalled the presence of a brownie. I walked downstream for three hours, exploring every pool and riffle. A couple of Trout attacked the fly but I failed to make contact. I was more interested in the landscape than the fish. I think the valley is the most beautiful I have ever fished. The pictures tell the story.



6 July – River Rother

The crystal clear water in the Itchen and the Dartmoor rivers had demanded the most perfect presentation. Even with a delicately presented upstream dry fly the Trout had proved ultra fussy and they were quick to reject anything that looked suspicious.

When I arrived at Keepers Bridge I smiled at the green tint in the water and the leisurely way the current rolled around the bends. The river was in no hurry. The margins of the river were decorated with shoulder high sedges intermingled with highlights of colour from the wild flowers. It looked perfect. There were a few Mayfly hatching and the occasional sedge but at 3:00pm on a bright July afternoon, the fish were not going to rise. Late in the evening perhaps but it was too early for a dry fly. I chose a weighted black spider and decided to work methodically through the pools that always hold a fish or two.


It was good to be able to explore the water down and across the current, the pace was slow. Not the frantic retrieve necessary to keep in touch with a nymph in a tumbling moorland stream. I felt that I was in control and that I could work every clump of streamer weed and the deep runs under the banks. I started in the pool below the first Alder tree which has always been very kind to me.

The ground was warm and rock hard. It was easy to shuffle along on my backside down the length of the pool covering every inch of water. At the end of the pool I lifted the fly from behind a sparse clump of streamer weed and a good fish followed it up. There was a satisfying thump on the rod and battle commenced. As usual the landing net had failed to keep up with my progress down the pool and I encouraged the fish to swim upstream. As I turned to pick up the net I allowed a little slack line and the fish was away. My fault.

I started to fish the Sandy Pool about half-way down expecting to find a fish in the tail of the pool. The take came under the far bank and the fish summersaulted across the pool. I played it hard, not wanting the barbless hook to drop out. My landing net was at hand and I made no mistake. It was a lovely Trout, golden orange and fin perfect. It swam away from the net strongly. I fished the long straight pool and saw a good Sea Trout leap vertically from the water. It was not interested in my fly but I thought I would rest the fish and try again later.


I walked upstream to the Old Riffle and put a fly in all the usual holding places but there was no response. I returned to the Sea Trout but it didn’t take, it may have continued its journey upstream.

I’d caught a Trout and was satisfied. I might have caught another if I’d stayed on for the evening rise but I was content with one fish. I would be able to face the wild brownies on Dartmoor reinvigorated.


2 July – River Itchen

As I arrived, just after noon, it started to rain. I sat in the car and laughed. The soaking on my previous visit was fresh in my memory. The light shower passed over and ten minutes later the intense sunlight pierced through the fast moving clouds. I tackled up my Southwell “Blagdon” and walked to the top of the Beat in shirt sleeves. A couple of casts later I decided that the rod was not right for the river, it was too powerful. Another shower sent me scurrying back to the car for a change of rod and a jacket.

I returned to the river as a weather front passed over. The air temperature soared and it became very humid. The blue bottles drove me mad and I was grateful when the air freshened and the wind increased. I had not fished “The Bends” before and it was good to explore a new stretch of river and admire the scenery. I found a group of fish in a deep pool and thought that one would soon be visiting me on the bank. For about an hour everything was a shambles. I hooked every piece of greenery, rod wrapped and splashed the fly down. As I became more frustrated the problems deepened. I knew that I needed a break and returned to the car for a late brunch. I abandoned the jacket.


I resolved to keep calm and take my time when I returned to the fish in the deep pool. A Trout rose and turned to follow my fly downstream but sheered away and disappeared. The wind made it difficult to present the fly in the channel but on the odd occasion when it drifted over a fish there was no response.


I moved up the Beat and found a couple of lone fish on the shallows but they were very spooky and drifted into cover. A deep run under my bank held a fish and my spirits lifted when a good Trout took the fly. They were dashed a few seconds later when it flashed it’s flank and came unstuck. I moved on and made a note to return to the run later.


I worked hard for six hours, walking up and down the Beat, creeping around behind cover and only resting a few minutes between pools to relax my back and shoulder muscles. The wind was strong and flukey but the nature of the Beat ensured that I could find situations where I could present a fly upstream with the wind behind me.

I returned to the deep run and a nice Grayling took the fly. It was nice to catch something towards the end of the day, it was a suitable reward for my efforts.